Housebuilder Crest Nicholson kicked off the reporting season this week with a strong set of annual results, calming fears of a housing crash.

Crest, one of the first companies to abandon the luxury end of the market, said that its experience in regeneration and affordable housing was driving growth.

The firm reported a 10% rise in pre-tax profit to £82.1m for the year to 31 October 2004. It demonstrated its confidence in future growth by recommending a 12% rise in final dividend, to 12.3p. Crest has secured £1bn of regeneration work since the end of the financial year, including work with Grosvenor in Bath and English Partnerships at Oakgrove, Milton Keynes.

Crest’s affordable housing business was booming last year: completions rose 131% to 712 units. Its average sale price dropped 12% to £210,000, reflecting the increased proportion of social housing.

Speculation continued that property entrepreneur Gerald Ronson plans to launch a takeover bid for Crest. The head of Heron International has built up a 23.4% stake but has declined to communicate with the board.

“I have no idea about his intentions,” said Stephen Stone, Crest’s chief operating officer.